Do you get forced into a room to brainstorm with your colleagues? Does your organization pride itself on promoting a collaborative culture?

The business world has believed for years that creativity is quantitative. It feels that “two heads are better than one.” But, this notion that bringing people together will spark a chain reaction of imagination and innovation is outdated.

Think about what creativity means. Why is it used with originality and individuality? So what happens when a room of 7 individuals each have an original thought? In what almost feels like a social experiment, we see an alpha emerge. The meek, regardless of bringing an excellent idea to the table, soften their voices. And the one who is more confident about their contribution is the one that takes charge.

So does collaboration lead to creativity or does it dull it and result in herd mentality?

According to Picasso, “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.”

Picasso believed creativity has a better chance to thrive when given uninterrupted freedom. In fact, throughout history, we find that some of the most brilliant minds came up with their ideas on their own. Except for the Wright Brothers, name other innovators whose inventions resulted from collaboration.

Seeking solitude doesn’t make you antisocial. Withdrawing from social settings doesn’t mean you are avoiding interaction. It means that you need solace and prefer to be alone. To be alone is not the same as being lonely. And you can still feel lonely in the presence of a lot of people.
The Journal of the Theory of Social Behaviour released a compelling article. It explored the benefits of being alone. The authors are Christopher R. Long and James R. Averill. They are from the Department of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts. Their studies associate solitude with “freedom, creativity, intimacy, and spirituality.” They found being alone, “reduces the need for impression management without imposing a pattern of behavior to which one feels pressure to conform.”

A collaborative environment does enable individuals to share their ideas and skills. It doesn’t mean that those ideas were born from encouragement to work together. They could have developed their concepts on their own time. In a moment of solitude when they were free to explore their own minds uninterrupted.

Stuffing too many people in one box doesn’t always result in an out-of-the-box idea. The creative mind is complex, and it works best when it disconnects from reality and left to wander. So although a room full of people exchanging their thoughts is a great way to bring everyone’s ideas to the table. It’s not the most conducive environment to unleash individual creativity.

Our personal experiences. Our social and environmental interactions, do inspire some of our best ideas. Yet, it is often in our moments of quiet solitude that they rise to the surface.


Philip Uglow is the President of Renshi Consulting Group. Renshi lowers clients costs by pulling ideas from your people in the moment, when they are most busy with real work. This is when they learn. This is when they change.